Telehealth and Population Management
The U.S. healthcare system is in the midst of reorganization and is developing innovative solutions to save money without compromising care. Banner Health system, based in Phoenix, AZ, has developed a “central nervous system” for its network of hospitals with telehealth. Their goal is to simultaneously improve clinical outcomes and eliminate unnecessary spending, and telehealth is helping them reach that goal.
Banner Health launched its first teleICU program back in 2006, linking its 22 hospitals across five states. With more national emphasis being placed on the Triple Aim (see figure) and on population health management in general, health systems like Banner Health need to effectively manage all patients in their network. According to Robert Groves, MD, vice president of health management for Banner Health:
“One of the best ways to do that is to develop a central nervous system for the organization for those value-based patients and then deliver services to them virtually, through telehealth.”
Groves states that telehealth serves four main goals:
+ Delivering immediate responses from remote specialists regarding patients
+ Monitoring vital signs and symptoms to prevent adverse outcomes
+ Providing a safety net to ensure compliance with best practices and avoiding unnecessary testing
+ Continuously measuring statistics for improvement in all aspects of the treatment cycle
In 2013, Banner Health experienced 20,000 fewer ICU days and 40,000 fewer hospital days than were predicted. Implementing telehealth saved them about $68 million in one year, and is projected to save even more in subsequent years. Currently, 34% of all healthcare organizations cite telehealth as the top future investment in order to promote more patient engagement and control remote monitoring. Telehealth provides health systems with an efficient way of managing population health, and it also alleviates the pressure to cut costs without compromising care.